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The word with which this week's Torah reading begins literally means ‘because of’ or ‘as a consequence of’ one's actions and behavior.  However Rashi chooses to define the word ‘eikev’ in a more allegorical sense. Rashi traces the word to its root where it means the heel of a person. We find that this is its meaning when the Torah describes our father Jacob holding onto the heel of his brother Eisav.

Rashi comments that there are “light” or “easy” commandments that people readily denigrate and step upon with their heels. We are warned in Avot that one should not treat any commandment lightly. We human beings are unaware of the true value and reward that attaches to the observance of any commandment. In effect, we are being taught that when it comes to Jewish values and behavior, observance of commandments and moral behavior there is nothing that is trivial or inconsequential.
Veins of gold and other valuable metals lie beneath the surface of the earth that we trod upon. If this be true in the physical world that we inhabit how much more so is it true regarding the spiritual - and always mysterious and unpredictable - world in which we exist. We tend to trivialize many important things.
This is the part of our makeup which allows us to substitute our human judgment for God's holy commandments. We say that things are unimportant without realizing where this attitude and the behavior that it engenders will lead us to in the future.
The road of the Jewish people in history is strewn with the debris of commandments discarded and tradition ignored or ridiculed. We should be careful what we step upon and where our heels leave a mark.
Judaism recognizes and allows for changes in societies and circumstances. What it does not allow for is disregarding the commandments of the Torah in favor of current fads and political correctness. Being up-to-date today in behavior, dress and attitude almost guarantees that one will be obsolete tomorrow. There is a tendency in the current Jewish world to somehow separate observance of commandments from Judaism or from Jewish values.
All of our history has shown us that these attempts are futile and eventually lead to assimilation and the complete alienation of millions of Jews from the very same Judaism to which they wish to ascribe. Even though we are always influenced by the general culture which surrounds us and we are inescapably touched by it, true change in the Jewish world always comes from within.
It also will never occur through legislation, coercion or hostile behavior towards others. Those who think and act in such a fashion are really stepping upon the very commandments that they wish to uphold. Stepping upon an object on the road or sidewalk can have devastating physical results. Stepping upon the commandments of the Torah occasions spiritual disasters and eventually national consequences. We should not only guard our thoughts and words but our heels as well.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein   

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